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to decriminalise homosexuality
Dube, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
July 10, 2011
hired by the National
Aids Council (NAC) to review Zimbabwe's response to the
Aids pandemic has recommended a review of the Sexual
Offences Act to deal with "homosexuality and prostitution
in a pragmatic way."
The law in its present
form criminalises homosexuality and prostitution.
Zimbabwe, which is predominantly
Christian, also considers both practices alien.
But the study carried
out by the consultant who cannot be named for professional reasons
encourages Zimbabweans to be open-minded about homosexuality and
other sexual practices if the pandemic, killing thousands of people
every week, is to be brought under control.
The same document calls
for the review of the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council
Act so that "contraceptives should be made available in schools,...stipulates
placing condoms in hotels, night clubs and beer halls."
The recommendation on
condoms in schools, first reported in The Standard, has sparked
a fierce debate but it is likely to be paled by the suggestion that
the country must have a relook at its anti-sodomy laws.
Men having sex with other
men (MSM) have been singled out along commercial sex workers as
some of the most vulnerable groups in HIV transmission in Zimbabwe.
A recent study on the
modes of HIV transmission in the country indicated that MSM accounted
for 4% of new infections and 0,4% for female partners of MSM.
Commercial sex workers
account for 1,4% of new infections.
The Zimbabwe National
HIV and Aids Strategic Plan (ZNASP) also calls for "a review
and update of the national regulatory framework to reflect the latest
developments in the HIV situation and response to the epidemic."
NAC said the consultant
was hired to review all the Acts, declarations and protocols that
deal with the fight against HIV and Aids.
The council says it is
not actively advocating for the recommendations, such as the decriminalisation
of homosexuality, but would encourage debate around the issues.
Tapuwa Magure, the NAC
CEO said the organisation was yet to consider the recommendations
and come up of with a position, especially on the controversial
issues such as placing condoms in schools and homosexuality.
"We hired a consultant
who made those recommendations but we have not yet sat down to go
through them as an organisation so we currently do not have a position
regarding them," he said.
"We however believe
that all populations, be it the disabled or prisoners, should have
access to interventions and as a country, we are doing well in this
"It was a bit premature
to present those recommendations to the media but we will be having
a position in due course."
The country's HIV
prevalence rate in adults currently stands at 13,1% and is considered
to be among the highest in the world.
President Robert Mugabe
once labelled homosexuals as worse than dogs and pigs.
Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai also angered civic groups last year when he strongly
spoke against homosexuality.
also resisted calls to provide prisoners with condoms despite widespread
reports that inmates engage in sexual activities. South Africa is
the only African country that has decriminalised homosexuality.
and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) said the criminalisation of
homosexuality and the prevailing homophobic climate was driving
most gay people underground.
such as doctors and nurses also tend to develop negative attitudes
when dealing with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gendered)
people as a result of lack of information," GALZ said.
"In terms of HIV
prevention this is serious, particularly as GALZ is the only organisation
in Zimbabwe providing services specifically to the lesbian and gay
community; and very few other HIV/Aids organisations even consider
MSM/ women having sex with women (WSW) in their intervention work."
Zimbabwe has no data
for sexual minorities, but studies done in Botswana and Malawi among
other regional countries estimate that HIV prevalence among MSM
is between 20% to 33%.
The studies also concluded
that the risk of men acquiring HIV during unprotected receptive
anal sex is 10 times higher than during insensitive anal sex or
unprotected vaginal sex with a woman.
GALZ said while HIV/Aids
issues were being "heterosexualised" in Zimbabwe, minority
groups were even more at risk of contracting HIV through anal sex
and some MSM had female partners thus, expanding the HIV network.
"The right to health
should be accorded to everyone regardless of sexual orientation,
gender, sex or creed," GALZ said in response to the recommendations
by the NAC consultant.
consensual same sex practise will reduce fear, stigma and discrimination
as it has to be accompanied by education, trainings and sensitisation
of all stakeholders including the police.
information and proper protective barrier methods for MSM will go
a long way in preventing further new infections among MSM who do
contribute to the generalised epidemic in Zimbabwe (and) reduction
of sexual networks or multiple concurrent relationships among these
groups through education and empowerment without fear or persecution
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